Monday, 29 March 2010

Visiting Phraya Rasda's house

As some friends were going to do a photo shoot in Kantang I was asked to tag along to see the local spot. Little did I know that I was going to see a piece of history. After some driving we came to a seemingly dilapidated house in a huge estate.

Phraya Rasda's house

I stepped out of the car and outside on the road were many parked tour buses and people were milling about. I walked up the drive way to the old house and saw an old man sitting in a chair inside and people were kow-towing to him. After a few minutes I realized it was a wax figure.

Phraya Rasda in his bedroom

The house and garden itself was quite unkempt and I asked what house is this and reply was Phraya Rasda's house. I learned that he was the Governor of Trang in 1893 and the man who imported the first rubber tree to Thailand.

Phraya Rasda in his prime

Phray Rasda's is also known as Khaw Sim Bee na RanongOriginally Phraya Rasda hailed from Penang, Malaysia where his family had emigrated from Zhangzhou, China. Eventually, upon his death, Phraya Rasda was buried back in Penang.

Unkempt Bonsai tree

The house walls were littered with pictures from his time and little else was to be seen except a few old pieces of furniture and knick-knacks. The upper floors had spacious terraces with beautiful view over the garden.

Water filtration plant English colonial era

View from terrace to garden

The house was still owned by the kin of Phraya Rasda and I understood there has been talks to preserve the house to it's former glory and establish a museum. Currently there was no entry fee and no guides, only a maid instructing all visitors to leave their shoes outside.

Click here for more info about Trang and Phraya Rasda.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Huai Yod talent contest

While in Trang I was given opportunity to come and watch a talent contest at Huai Yod school. These kind of events are very common in Thailand and are often arranged by schools, monasteries & other entities in order to raise funds for various causes. The contestants are sponsored by various means as well and the event usually has also a wide variety of stalls selling food and other knick knacks. It always gives a feeling of being in a sort of mini Carnival and people are lining up from everywhere.

Ningnong Show

This time the team sponsored by the Ton Rak wedding studio won 2nd place, mostly, as deemed by the judges, due to the singers weak voice that faded away at times and could not keep the high notes.Anyway, as it was the troupes 1st performance ever it gave them the confidence for further endeavours in this field, only they need to find a better singer for next time...

Slow dance & song

Fast dance & song

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Road tripping to Bangkok, part II

2 weeks later the red shirts were wreaking havoc in Bangkok and I prepared to go north to pick up my newly arrived passport. This time I could not get a ticket in Phuket as it seemed government had cut bus rides up north in order to stem the flow of people to the ongoing demonstrations. Anyway, I got a ride in Krabi and was once again on my way. Same routine repeated itself with dinner in Chumphon. I bought for dessert a bag of "mak" from an old lady selling them outside the rest stop. It was so strong it made my head spin.

The Lion of Finland

This time I arrived Bangkok at 4.30am next morning and I was smarter than last time and bought my return ticket straight away. Then I took a taxi to Wongvien Yai where the start of the western skytrain line is. As I had so much time on my hands I just started walking along the road towards Chid Lom. 

Bangkok morning rush 

I passed several street hawkers that were preparing to setup shop for the day. Stray dogs were roaming the streets in packs, luckily they did not bother me. I also passed Patpong roads thatwere being cleaned up after the nights excesses. I saw police men doing their part in enforcing the law. Bangkok was waking up as I walked along Sathorn Road, Silom and Witthayu until Sukhumvit road.

Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn)

I arrived about an hour and half later to the embassy and read a book while waiting for the bureaucrats to come to work. Once the doors opened I got my passport and was once again free to roam the streets of Bangkok. This time I had a date with Brendan and Lyn who were also in Bangkok for business. After some half a dozen phonecalls to find my bearings to their hotel I was there by 9.30am. I was grateful of being able to loan their bathroom and wash off the dust and sweat from the trip. 

Bangkok riverside architecture

After that we headed off to Surasak and took the ferry boat up to Banglamphu district (close to the famous KhaoSan road). This area has nothing to with Thailand but tourists seemed to love it. We found a nice restaurant under a huge shady tree where we ordered several Singha's accompanied by lunch. As we were chatting away I realized time was drawing close and I found myself looking for a taxi that would not try and shaft me. The first 4-5 would not open their meters and quoted ridiculous prices to get to Sai Tai. 

Old rice barge converted to service the tourist trade

When I reached the main road I caught a taxi who was honest enough to open his meter and take me where I wanted. I arrived SC plaza with 20minutes to spare. Finally when I was waiting at the platform I was informed that the bus is late so I ended up sitting there for perhaps an hour. Anyway, once again I was on the way south again, mission accomplished. This time there was no dinner stop or I slept through it. Next morning I woke up in deep south again back home.


By the time of writing this the red shirts had smeared the Parliament House steps and the Prime Ministers house entrance with their own blood...

Monday, 15 March 2010

Fossil beach Krabi

Having been driving to Trang a few times I have been seeing signs of the "fossil beach" when I've been passing through Krabi, so this time I decided to go and check it out.

At the "T" junction towards Krabi airport and town I went towards the town and after a couple of k's I came to a right turn which said "Fossil beach 8km". After following a meandering road with spectacular lime stone vistas I came to another junction after 9k's, no signs there.

Krabi road vistas

I turned left anyways and after awhile stopped to ask for directions. It turned out we were still on the right road and needed to go further. After some way I came to another sign saying "fossil beach" and on I went. Finally we arrived to the beach after 15k's from the 8k sign (!).

The fossil beach can just be discerned at the bluff

It turned out to be a large parking area at the entrance of a National Park (fees apply). As usual there were the tourist shops and restaurants lining the parking lot as well. The fossil beach was bit down towards the rocky slope where the parking lot was. At the moment I was there the beach was under the high tide and the "fossil beach" could be discerned brownish at the head of the bluff.

Can't imagine they still do catch these giant shells

I took a few pics, checked the wares for sale and left for Phuket. Kind of disappointing visit and poor signage too...

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Road tripping to Bangkok part I

As my passport was running out of pages despite only 4 years in use I needed to get a new one before the bureaucrats started bitching about it. For those who do not know, one is required to have at least 2 blank pages and more than 6 months validity (as I recall) left in order to be admitted to any country.

Bangkok Southern Bus terminal

I was down to 4 pages so I thought now or never and phoned up the embassy in Bangkok whether I could do it remotely here in Phuket or via the honorary consul placed here, "nope" was the reply. All passport applications to be made in person, bring b/w passport photo with neutral expression and your own fingerprints. Oh well, I swung into action and lashed off to nearest photographer and got myself a set of ugly passport photos, packed an overnight bag, my own fingers and bought a bussticket to Bangkok, same evening I was on my merry way.

One of the mega shopping malls "The Mall" @ Rama II

The ride was a bit bumpy and I appreciated the working seatbelt as when I was napping I felt that the bus could topple any minute. As usual the aircondition was not next to absolute zero as I have experienced an earlier occasions but quite pleasant. While enroute we stopped for a complimentary dinner in Chumphon. Next morning I arrived at the southern busstation (Sai Tai) at SC Plaza. From there a friendly lady offered me a ride to Pratu Nam which was close to the Finnish embassy. I arrived abt 30minutes before opening time to file my application.  Bad news was that the Finnish embassy do not employ any courier services so I had to come back after 2 weeks to collect the new passport. Unlike Indian embassy or even the Thai government, they use courier to send documents back, so I would have to impose another CO2 imprint onto the atmosphere to come back the Big Mango once again.

On the road again...

Embassy opened at 8am and I got down to business with the Passport Officer and forms were filled and my fingerprints taken. Apparently all went electronically to Finland as I saw the signed form with my ugly picture and fingerprints being scanned. At 8.30 I was all done and wandered around Bangkok until afternoon when I headed back to SC Plaza to get a return ticket to Phuket. I had still some 3 hours to spare until the bus departure so I decided to take a Thai massage that was in the plaza. An old Isan lady kneaded me with her elbows, knees and feet so hard that I felt like being run over by a ten-wheeler, she was just saying the farang is very stiff. I was indeed after that treatment.

Tollway queues

Finally on the way down south again I discovered a totally new route (to me) down south. The bus was taking the seaside road and we passed numerous salt ponds were seawater was being processed into salt, unfortunately nightfall came fast and darkness surrounded soon everything and there was not much to be seen after that. We stopped for complimentary dinner in Nakhon Si Thammarat and next thing I know I was being thrown off at the Yacht haven junction.

Salt flats

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Captain's blog February 2010

February went fast as usual, Kalizma was looking to be under siege with all the maintenance works going on but she looks better now with the new awnings, new bridge deck teak and fresh varnish work. I also did plenty of carpentry inside as well, fixing here and there.

On the 13th we had to leave Phuket for Langkawi to our monthly visa run. I did a disappointing dive at Ko Ma enroute. We also thought we would end up in Dubai but those plans were cancelled.
As for crew matters I got a new stewardess on the 6th, Ms. Asen, to replace Martula. Asen is also from Nagaland.

Jyothi got married on Valentine's day and has been confirmed to be located to South of France, she is now taking French lessons. Best of luck to her new posting and marriage.
In Langkawi Saini, Rajaram and Dubey was cleaning the ship up after all the works, all decks were scrubbed clean. 

Then I got Chan onboard from Lumut to install new CCTV system and radar. Our old Pelco CCTV had not only proved unreliable but also very expensive so I got a more stronger Chinese made system that does not disintegrate in the camerahousings like the Pelco had done. This system also provides spares, so if a small part breaks I don't need to buy the whole camera.

For radar I installed a Raymarine to replace the old Nobeltec that is very unreliable and have given me so many grey hairs during my 2 years on Kalizma. The Raymarine is working very well and I do not miss the old Nobeltec for a second. I still have one Nobeltec as my 2nd radar though but maybe after some time I will have the budget to replace that one as well.

I was also invited for dinner to Mangoes by Vanessa and TC and was positively surprised by the food and service there. Mangoes is run by an Australian lady and her German husband. I recommend the chocolate mudcake with ice cream, yummy.

Chan took me to Teo's for a couple of dInners, the food was delicious as usual. I also dined Chan at Luck Luck restaurant in little Hat Yai, the Thai food there is also worth a try for anybody wanting some change.

By the 27th we were leaving Langkawi for Phuket and we dived Ko Rawi, Ko A Yam and Hin Daeng enroute. The weather was phenomenally great.
On the 1st I disembarked at Phuket Town to do our check in in Ao Chalong while Saini was sailing Kalizma to Yacht Haven. I had to hurry to the marina and they had a dinghy standing by for me to get back onboard. This time we moored inside the marina and managed it easily after getting the current from the right side.

Wonder if this guy was out shopping during low water

So, once again we were safely back in Phuket and I called carpenters onbard to finish the radar installation and to replace some wooden railings that had gotten rotten. The same maintenance rally continues...

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Diving Ko A Yam & Hin Daeng

Next day (28th Feb) came sunny and calm, we heaved up anchor early morning and started towards Phuket again. At abt 10am we were passing Ko A Yam and Ko Bulon and decided to try out the waters there as well.

Ko A Yam

North of Ko A Yam is a steep cliff drop down to 20m and we decided to start from there and circle the Island. The current was from north to south. The Island is consisting of a few rocks and one looks like a white old man that reminds me of the fertility figure I saw in Jeju Island South Korea, I reckon the white color comes from bird droppings.

Sea anemone and coral

Caught the hand in the cookie jar


Sea anemone and "pla katon"

Giant clam shell

Anyway, off we went with Saini and found very murky water with visibility abt 3-5m. On the other hand the fish was there plentiful. The north side of the Island was mostly rocks and corals but when I ventured to the south side it was like a green pasture, corals covered in green undulating as far as I could see (not far). I took what pictures I could as my flash was out of comission. Soon enough I was out of air and it was time to surface. We climbed onboard the tender, headed back and continued our voyage towards Phuket.

Hin Daeng

Hin Daeng

In the afternoon we were passing Hin Daeng (Red Rock) and stopped there also for a dive. Hin Daeng is a small outcrop consisting of 3 small islets jutting out of the sea in the middle of nowhere. The islet goes steeply down to 60m so anchoring was not an option. Fortunately the Universe were with us and the sea was almost flat like a mirror.

Huge puffer fish

Saini and the puffer fish

Once again we launched our tenderboat and loaded our dive gear. First me and Saini went down and the visibility was great abt 20m. The islet was surrounded by patrolling Barracuda's and the bottom consisted of rocky ridges going down to the depths. Every time we passed a ridge we came upon huge groupers, I would estmate 20kg per fish. They were quite shy and swam into hiding as soon as they saw us.

Fish eggs

Saini and me was clicking away on our cameras, fish was plentiful. Then it was time to surface and next dive was with Saini, Rajaram and Kalpu in shallow waters. I stayed on the tender. Once they were up we stowed our gear and resumed voyage. At about midnight we arrived in front of Phuket Town and dropped anchor for the night.

Soft coral

Monday, 1 March 2010

Diving Ko Rawi

Our time was up once again and Saini's visa expired so we had to leave Malaysia for Phuket. We left late on the 27th in the afternoon as Chan was tweaking our new CCTV and radar installation and we still had some stuff to pick up before departure. Once on our way we steamed towards the Butangs for night anchorage. We arrived just with the last rays of the sun and anchored just south of Ko Rawi.

Morning in Ko Rawi

During the sailing the boys had setup our dive gear and as we stopped engines we lowered the tenderboat for a night dive. From our last visit we knew that south of the Rawi Island was great corals to be seen we plopped in the drink armed with our new underwater flashes. At first we did some test flashing at he surface and when we were satisfied that all was working well we went down, me, Saini and Dubey. At first we encountered strong current against us but as we swam closer to the Island the current subsided as we reached the coral heads.

We were photographing anything that was worth a pic, but then my flash started acting all strange, at forst the flashes came long after the picture was taken and soon enough it stopped working altogether. Saini's flash was working alright and he was shooting away like a lightning thunderstorm. The corals we saw were very nice but the fishlife was very scarce for some reason (maybe all fish were sleeping).

Soon enough it was time to surface as we had exhausted our airtanks and back onboard we went. I discovered my flash flooded by brown freshwater, so I guess the batteries had warmed up during the last few days and accumulated condesation inside, the color of the water was from rust. Needless to say I will take out any batteries from my underwater gear when not in use.

Dubey had kicked a sea urchin while diving and he counted abt 17 pinpricks on his leg, he spent rest of the evening soaking his leg in vinegar.